From our readers: Preserving Australia’s future by electing more independents

Oct 16, 2021
election ballot box democracy voting
(Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

In our first letters to the editor column: electing independents to Parliament, the decimation of Australian universities, calling time on Infrastructure Australia, and reflecting on the Catholic Church.

This week, our readers responded with enthusiasm to John Menadue’s argument for more independent MPs in the next House of Representatives. Others of you were dismayed at the continuing hollowing out of our higher education sector, as explored by Judy Hemming. We also received responses to John Austen’s question as to whether Infrastructure Australia to be abolished, and Paul Collins’ reflections on the Plenary Council.

We welcome your responses to our articles. To submit a letter to the editor, please email us at, including your full name and town or suburb, and the article to which you are responding. Letters should be no longer than 200 words, and may be edited for clarity, style and length.

The case for more independent MPs — John Menadue

We need independents to hold the balance of power after the next election

I agree, the Australian Labor Party is wrongly hedging against all wedges and yet, clear statements about a federal ICAC are the very least that voters should be offered. On that, any investigation is “retrospective”, because commissions cannot look at a future, unknowable misdemeanour, it will have occurred at least a day before, if not years. Critics of the Coalition are plain wrong on that. Funding should also be an independent tribunal matter, not as in NSW.

The “Indi model” and progressive funding for independents are much welcomed. Labor prime minister Julia Gillard formed a very productive “coalition”, and far less divisive than the stale Liberal-National “Coalition”. Independent candidates are urgently needed — my electorate of Wentworth is bereft, like many other electorates. Those prominent in this public forum should think of standing, with clear positions on important areas that Labor will not touch. These are neatly listed in Pearls and Irritations. I would like to add serious bank reforms that should be implemented and supervised by the Reserve Bank: central banks are all self-financing, not dependent on funding support of the government of the day. The Bank of England has just retaken that role. — Jocelyn Pixley, Paddington NSW

An exciting and thought provoking narrative. You say a unicameral government works well in NZ. Rather than travel to NZ you should consider the unicameral parliamentary system in Queensland which is a disgraceful sham.

Checks and balances do not exist in the Sunshine Sate. The investigative authorities are politically subservient and compliant to which ever political government is in power, meaning the Deep State is alive and well. Perhaps a unicameral system with an ICAC could make a difference but in the Sunshine State the unicameral parliamentary system is rampantly out of control. — Don Magin
Gold Coast

This article neatly summarises strong reasons for having independents in decision making roles and possibly alludes to the fact that this scenario is likely to occur more readily than changing election rules to enable the community view to be expressed and translated into action in Parliament.

Aside from the critical climate change lack of policy and the likely “too little, too late” scenario, there are many other areas that are ignoring community views on issues such as: the need for a federal ICAC with teeth; freedom of information requests; secrecy around court proceedings involving Witness K ; the downgrading of the public service which is being replaced by, at best, expensive private contracts; allowing continued “pork barrelling” prior to elections; the lobbying of government to obtain profit for influential organisations or individuals vs community need; failing to advance recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution etc. Voters could have a mechanism to preserve Australia’s future with independents running on community concerns. — Richard Ruffin, Adelaide

Decimating higher education — Judy Hemming 

The further hollowing out of ethics and education in Australia’s universities

An excellent article that, for once, also reveals the role of the Hawke government at the very beginning. Of course, for those of us who remember, Peter Reith delivered the body blow after Howard’s 1996 election win. Successive governments have continued the neoliberal “project”, particularly the present anti-intellectual Morrison regime. My wife was looking at a career in university, as a lecturer, in the mid-nineties. She had her Masters degree and had commenced her PhD. We saw her career slip through her fingers like dry sand. Hence our decision to work overseas, in more secure, and more valued, settings. Politicians over these past four decades or so are no better than vandals, intent on instituting a market-based tertiary system and debasing a critical thinking ethos that strives to inculcate inquiry and reflection. Philistines, the lot of them!! — Robert Harwood, West Hobart

Vale, Infrastructure Australia — John Austen

John Austen: Time to call time on Infrastructure Australia? It has failed

The Commonwealth Infrastructure Priority is due for de-listing. We ought to be interested in what projects the government wants to spend our money on. The citizenry is unfazed by government’s opaque vision and a loss of confidence in merit as a transparent selection criterion. Projects advanced in the queue signal interference by vested interests.

As John Austen says, Infrastructure Australia should have recommended a “policy of interoperable — standardized — transport networks to support interstate and international trade and commerce.” It didn’t so its abolition is justified.

Public enquiries would foster citizen engagement such that many could name the top three projects on the priority list, and when they are slated for commencement and completion. Vale, IA. — David Muscio, Woonona, NSW

Fondly remembering ‘The Church’ — Paul Collins

The Plenary Council has been a masterclass in avoiding the real problems in the Catholic Church.

Paul Collins writes with his usual clarity and insight. I share his view that the monarchical model of the Church is not fit for purpose and has outlasted its relevance. Like Paul, I was an Australian priest in the 1970s. Parishes were alive, priests were many and respected, and “The Church” had a positive reputation. It’s a fond memory.

Now, the community — Catholics included — deplore what the Church has become. Pews and seminaries are emptying, remaining priests are disillusioned and exhausted, and episcopal leadership seems inept, and even complicit in denial and inaction regarding a long history of child abuse.

Young adults whom I know wonder why anyone would want to be part of such a toxic and out-dated institution. As Francis Sullivan apparently said at the First Assembly of the Synod, “…unless all the implications of the sex abuse scandal are faced head-on, I fear the Church will struggle to be identified for anything else in my lifetime.”

While I hope that the spirit will enliven dry, old bones (Ezekiel 37:6), I lament that “The Church” will become an historic artefact, no longer present in vibrant faith communities, but merely as “churches” — old buildings visited by tourists. — Greg Latemore, Coorparoo, QLD

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